One of the most common questions about Powerball is whether winners can remain anonymous or if they must disclose their identities to the public. In the majority of states, if you were to win the jackpot, you wouldn't have a choice over staying anonymous, as certain information about you would be deemed public interest and therefore would be made public.
Some states do allow you to maintain your anonymity, however, and there's also the option of claiming through a trust or other legal entity, which provides another way of obscuring your identity from the wider world.
The main reason that information about jackpot winners is revealed is to preserve the integrity of the lottery and to prove that the game is being conducted fairly. Should no winners ever be made known, players may begin to question where the money is going and might mistrust the state lotteries that operate Powerball. Although these organizations are closely audited and draws take place under a great deal of scrutiny, nothing shows the public that winnings are actually being paid out better than a highly publicized press conference and photo shoot with the winners.
It is also in the best interests of the selling lotteries to release a winner's information. By publicizing news of big wins, they can potentially draw more attention to the game and encourage more people to buy tickets. This has a snowball effect, where the more publicity there is around the lottery, the greater the number of tickets sold and the higher the jackpot rises.
Opinion may be shifting, however, as many people now believe that lottery winners have the right to remain anonymous. This is partly because of the disruptive effect that big lottery wins can have on a person's life, especially if the prize amount approaches record levels. Winners of hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars can expect to be in the public spotlight for the foreseeable future.
A more pressing case for anonymity regards the very safety of the winners themselves. In recent years, there have been some high-profile cases of lottery winners being targeted by criminals after their identities were disclosed to the public. Some winners have been injured and even killed as a result of the attention drawn to them by their newfound wealth. By being allowed to remain anonymous, this sort of risk would be almost completely mitigated.
Recently, there has been an upwelling of support for the anonymity cause, and more and more states are considering proposals to allow their lottery winners to remain anonymous. In the first quarter of 2019, Virginia and Arizona separately approved such proposals. Currently, 12 states allow winners to remain anonymous by law. The jurisdiction of Puerto Rico has also historically allowed certain winners to remain anonymous, following a law signed in 1989.
See the table below for more information on which states allow lottery winner anonymity:
|States That Allow Winner Anonymity||Conditions of Anonymity|
|Arizona||Must have won at least $100,000|
|Georgia||Must have won at least $250,000|
|Virginia (in effect as of: 1st July 2019)||Must have won at least $10 million|
|West Virginia||Must have won at least $1 million; must donate 5% of winnings to State Lottery Fund|
Fear not; if your win is made public, not all of your personal information will be disclosed. Typically, state lotteries will be required to release your full name, your town or city of residence, the store in which you bought the winning ticket, and the amount of money you won. Sensitive information, such as your social security number, will remain confidential. You can see further examples listed below:
|Information that will be disclosed||Information that will not be disclosed|
|Full name||Full address|
|Town or city of residence||Date of birth|
|The name and location of the store that sold the winning ticket.||Social Security Number|
|The prize amount||Marital status|
|Image or likeness||Whether you have children/dependents|
|-||Profession and wage/salary|
Bear in mind that some state lotteries may seek your permission to release further information about you, and it is likely that they will ask you to speak to the media, either via a press conference or a prepared statement. In some states, prizes will not be paid out until such media obligations have been fulfilled.
Some previous winners have been able to hide their identities by claiming their prize through a trust or other legal entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). In these cases, the trust's name, and sometimes the name of the representative collecting the prize on its behalf, will be disclosed to the public, but the real winner's identity will be protected.
The rules around claiming through a trust vary by state. Some don't allow it at all, while others will openly provide guidance on how you can go about it. Some lotteries, such as California, allow you to claim through a trust, but it must be linked to your own name and social security number, so complete anonymity is not guaranteed.
The table below shows which states accept – or have accepted – claims through a trust, and which don't. You should consult a lawyer and financial advisor if you plan on forming a trust to claim your winnings, as you still need to make sure the correct amount of tax is paid.
|Jurisdictions That Allow Trusts to Claim||Jurisdictions That Do Not Allow Trusts to Claim|
|Maryland||U.S. Virgin Islands|